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The Third Jewel of Life

People, who need people, are the…well, actually, everyone!

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Have you heard of the three jewels of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha? These can also be thought of as the three jewels of life. “Buddha” represents the highest experience humans are capable of; Dharma, the path, the instructions to find your highest self; and Sangha, the community, the people you will need to actualize the instructions so you can find the highest experience of human existence.

This third jewel, the Sangha, is often misunderstood and given short shrift. In PsychologyToday.com and elsewhere in philosophy, mental health and wellness circles you’ll see lots written about our highest potential, about, say, what happiness is. I’ve written a few blogs on the subject myself.

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Then there’s lots and lots out there on how to find this highest level of being human. From the right physical formula, like why exercise is so critical or that perfect supplement. Of course, cognitive psychology offers much on happiness, as do books on finding the ideal relationship, living a moral life, bringing success into your life, finding your passion, not to mention spiritual paths and exercises. Again, I’ve written a book and have a website devoted to a wholistic version of these instructions.

There are lots and lots of instructions out there. Lots. Tons. Volumes. (You get the point.) There is no shortage of ways to tell people how to live and what to do to find the highest experience of life. So why is the world so filled with stress and unhappiness? Why has it been that way?  Buddha, Jesus, Ghandi, scores of other life masters from ancient to modern times have provided excellent examples of the destination. Tomes have been written about how to get there.

Yet, it is fairly safe to say that most people are not happy. Most people are stressed, frustrated by others, disappointed in life, and depressed on whatever level they wish to admit it. Rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, we all suffer life- no matter how much surface luck we bring to the table.

The missing ingredient is this third jewel: Sangha. Now, it is well-known that belonging to a close knit community is highly correlated with wellness and happiness. Yet, close-knit communities are not the answer to human strife. They have existed throughout human history. People in them still struggle with life, meaning and happiness.

Sangha or “community” can be redefined and engineered to the standards of 21st century thinking on wellness and human potential. Such a modern Sangha would have several key elements.

First, there are the other members. This includes countless other fellow journeyers on a similar path of evolution. Within this larger group there must be a smaller group of intimates that are especially connected. I don’t mean group therapy. Just a smaller group of fellow journeyers who learn over time that supporting you and hearing your life stories without judgment enriches them. They need to share their intimate stories with you and the community to evolve themselves as well. A powerful culture of kind, nonjudgmental attention needs to be created.

This is a kind of post-modern, intentional “tribe.” Though it would be nice to form this with family and friends, usually it is best formed with an intentional group of people there just for that purpose. The tenets of communication, sharing and boundaries, the spirit of that specifically engineered group, can then be taken back to your family and friends so that they can relate in similar ways.  Leading this “intentional tribe” is a trained facilitator who knows how to nurture this experience.

In addition, this post-modern Sangha would be led by professionals with expertise in human potential. Their role is to provide a model for self-evolution, keeping everyone on-track towards their highest selves. Other professionals with specific expertise in wellness would be essential in teaching everyone how to create intense wellbeing. This would include, for example, experts in physical, mental or social wellness as well as the best ways to succeed in modern life.

For those inevitable times when you are stuck or even ill, this 21st century vision would even include clinics staffed with professionals who can provide more direct assistance—from health care to financial, psychological, to consumer assistance.

There is a sea of self-help books and programs out there. Yet, there is nothing like a wholistic, comprehensive and professionally-engineered Sangha. It is the missing ingredient to most people’s happiness and wellbeing. The 21st century “third jewel of life.” Find it, create it, do whatever it takes to join one, because that’s the channel, the conduit, to your highest self. It is the wings on which you will soar to life at its highest.

For more information on Dr. Skolnick and his SatoriWest LifeClubs go to satoriwest.net/lifeclub

Jeff Skolnick, M.D., Ph.D., is a psychiatrist. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Washington.

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